The Federal Aviation Administration has released its long-awaited rules for registration of drones and other unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), but the new rules are written to apply to private users, not businesses.
But there are important reasons to be aware of the requirement for drone registration, including the fact that another set of impending rules, this time for commercial use, could be a lot like the rules released on Dec. 14.
It's also likely that at least some drone operations contractors will buy consumer drones and use them commercially, so you should be aware of the rules for registration for your own protection.
The registration rules go into effect on Dec. 21. After that operators of drones weighing more than 250 grams (8.8 ounces) but less than 55 pounds must obtain a registration number from the FAA website. The rules apply to current UAS operators and to those who get drones or other unmanned aircraft after that date. Current owners of model airplanes have until February to register.
According to Zachary Ludens, an attorney with Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, which works with companies to figure out how to deploy UASs legally, the new registration rules deserve attention. "It is telling what the FAA is likely doing in other spaces as well," he said. He said that it's possible that the FAA may allow commercial users to have a single registration for all of its drones, for example.
In addition, the FAA has said that it plans to add commercial drones to the new Web-based registration system in the near future to streamline the current paper-based system. It's also likely that the new system for drone identification will also make its way to commercial uses. This would mean that a drone would only have to have the registration number visible somewhere on the body of the drone where it could be seen without tools.
The FAA explains in its FAQ's that the registration must be on the device, including in the battery compartment if that can be opened without tools. The registration number must be permanent, but that it can be on the device any way that works, including written on with a marker, attached with a label or engraved. So, yes, you can write it on with your Sharpie, assuming someone else can read your handwriting.
If a drone isn't registered, the FAA can assess a fine of up to $27,500 for violation of the rules. They can also take your drone.